When the new millennium dawned, we were greeted with celebrations and spectacular fireworks from around the world. There was a joyous optimism across the planet. If – like me – you are a stickler, then these celebrations were twelve months premature, as the 21st Century did not begin until 2001; however I will not go down that road; too many column inches devoted to the subject. The reason I mention this is because the new millennium wasn’t nine months old before the Al-Qaeda attacks on the United States. We celebrated a new millennium in a spectacular way and Osama bin-Laden found an equally spectacular way to raise terrorism to new heights. He wanted a war with the West – and the US in particular – and President Bush didn’t have any option but to oblige.
The invasion of Afghanistan was entirely justified. The Taliban had turned the country in to a safe haven for terrorists. Osama bin-Laden knew no matter what the repercussions would be be after 9/11, he had a safe-haven in Afghanistan. For world peace and security, the country had to be invaded and the Taliban removed.
Those who justify the invasion of Iraq, unfortunately, muddy the waters by justifying it as part of the war on terror. Perhaps if you say it often enough, both you and your audience will start to believe the propaganda. The facts though do not add up.
Saddam Hussein may have been a genocidal dictator – not an attribute you would warm to – but he did serve a useful purpose to those of us the West. We supported him throughout the protracted Iran/Iraq war and regarded him an an ally – albeit not one we would regard as a bosom friend. He liked to flex his muscles on the international stage once in a while, but Hussein was not a fool. He was interested in his own position of power more than anything else.
Just before the invasion of Iraq, I was having a conversation with a friend where we were discussing post-war Iraq. Every prediction we made came true. We didn’t try to look at the future through a crystal ball; we simply looked back at the history of the country and region.
The Sunnis, Shias and the Kurds can’t stand each other. There are times when you need a dictator to keep them all in line. The civil war raging at the moment would never have happened under Saddam’s regime. Al-Qaeda would never have been able to freely operate there either.
There are many conservatives in Britain who subscribe to the same view. We are not soft on terrorism or terrorists. What we do say is if you are going to invade another country, you have to have international support. You have to appreciate that although it may be relatively easy to win the war, you have to understand the difficulties you are going to encounter in order to achieve your goals of winning the peace and making the world a safer place. You also have to know – when you have overcome those difficulties by having the right strategies in place – how you are going to exit with the minimum of fuss.
Not only did President Bush and his advisers not appreciate the history of Iraq, they failed to realise the difficulties along the way and as far as an exit strategy? – I rest my case.
The invasion of Afghanistan was entirely justified; the invasion of Iraq was a folly we are still paying for, not only in the loss of life of our troops, but through the increased risk of international terrorism. The world is a more dangerous place than it was during those millennium celebrations. Removing the Taliban helped in our aim in making the world safer; removing Saddam Hussein did the opposite. We now have to stay there for as long as it takes – with increased troop numbers – and finish the job of properly.
– Andrew Allison